Sunday, July 23, 2006

Hygiene and Religion

The recognition of a large promoter of good hygiene practices, within at least the middle class, came as a somewhat of a surprise to me. But as I reflect even minutely on its role in my own life, it isn't surprising at all. Religion, at least what I know of Hindu sects, have promoted good hygiene practices for centuries.

One cannot enter a temple without bathing; every morning one should do puja (which means one has to bathe); one must wash one's hands after going to the restroom; after defecating, one cannot touch any puja/temple supplies (hence one has to bathe); one cannot eat before washing one's hands and all fruit/vegetables must be washed before consumption (the latter two at least being tenants of the Vaishnav dharma).

Frequent bathing, washing hands after going to the restroom and before eating and washing fruits and vegetables: sounds a lot like the hygiene practices that countless organizations around the globe are promoting, particularly to communities where waterborne diseases are widespread.

A subtle, yet not so subtle force teaching good hygiene practices- works for me.

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